How much energy can you save in your home by adding insulation? This is an often asked question by people who are building a home. The answer is to have someone model the home on a computer using a program like RemRate and see what the cost differences are. It also depends on the home design, home site, orientation to sun and window placement with the right kind of windows. In the past people didn’t think about energy saving too much but now with energy costs going up it is past time to consider it. Energy is not going to get cheaper. 40% of a families energy usage is in the home.
A HERS rater is the person you should look for to figure this out. HERS stands for home energy rating system. They plug in numbers for the walls, windows, doors , attic and other things and figure out a rating for the home. A home built to 2006 code is a HERS 100. An Energy Star home in Wisconsin has to be at least 20% more efficient so it would have a HERS score of 80. Existing homes can also be rated and they might be a 180, which they use almost twice the energy of a 2006 code home. There are homes being built now as far north as Fairbanks that have a HERS score of 10 to 15.
These homes typically do not have a furnace at all, or in the case in Fairbanks, they have a very small heating system for the size of the home.These homes are super insulated but the insulation costs are offset by the energy savings and the cost of installing a heating/cooling system. They actually save a very large amount of money over the life of the home and these homes are also designed to perform and give excellent indoor air quality. The key here is insulation and proper air sealing, and this IS the cheapest heat or cooling. And if you use the right insulation, these homes will last hundreds of years.
Now the question you should ask yourself is how much do you want to pay for heating and cooling. Most people say they do not want to pay anything, so we tell them, We Can Do It! By adding renewable energy to a well insulated home you can have a zero energy home or even sell energy back to your utility. Or you can live off grid altogether. So imagine your heating bills now and then ask yourself if you want to reduce them down to 10% of present cost. People are doing this now with insulation.
The way most homes are built now, we thought there was a point of diminishing return on insulation. Once we got to R-30 walls and R-60 in an attic we didn’t see much advantage in going beyond that. We still had to include a heating system in the home and we had trouble finding small enough heating systems to efficiently heat or cool the home. Then at a conference in Wisconsin the speaker said take away the thousands for a heating/cooling system and add insulation and plug in an electric baseboard or your hair dryer and heat the home. That is what a Passive House is. Eureka! No more propane from a rich oil producer, no more furnace problems. If the power goes out in the middle of the winter, the pipes will not freeze. As long as the sun comes out once in a while, and we are all in trouble if it doesn’t, the house won’t get below about 55 degrees. It is like a 217mpg car! So go to Arizona for the winter, your home will be just fine without you.
The Passive House Institute is an organization that certifies homes to use 10% of the energy of most homes. They are the most vocal about super insulated homes and how to build them. The insulation they say is the most cost effective is blown in fiberglass. That is exactly what the Blow In Blanket System (BIBS) is.